Thirty years ago, our Union embarked on a new project, the Stewards Program. The idea was to engage our most dedicated rank-and-file activists as we forged a stronger, more cohesive and better-informed membership.
In each workplace a member would be selected to serve as the “eyes and ears” of the Union and share the principles of Union Solidarity with his or her coworkers.
President, UFCW 8-Golden State
UFCW International Vice President
A year later, on May 15, 1985, 154 members of UFCW 588 gathered for their first Stewards Seminar at the Holiday Inn in downtown Sacramento. We presented speakers from the California Legislature, as well as representatives of the UFCW International Union and other special guests. We also viewed a videotape (remember those?) on the history of the United Food and Commercial Workers and a film on organizing non-Union businesses.
Our president emeritus, Jack L. Loveall, launched the seminar with these words: “This is just the beginning — an orientation to a Stewards Program that will be the lifeblood of our Union!”
We had confidence in our success because we knew the caliber of our most committed members. What took us by surprise was the degree of our success.
Our last Stewards Convention drew 600 Union activists from all parts of UFCW 8-Golden State’s jurisdiction, from the Oregon border in the north to Bakersfield in the south.
Our Stewards are energized by our programs. Over the years, they have been inspired by celebrities, political officeholders, courageous Walmart employees and leaders in the Labor and Civil Rights communities who urged them to stand up and raise their voices for Union solidarity.
We have also helped give our Stewards a strong grounding in the history of the Labor Movement. We do this because it is important to appreciate the sacrifices of those who lived before us so we can enjoy the benefits of things we take for granted — things like safety standards and overtime pay.
As we move forward through the second decade of the 21st century, we will continue to reflect on where we’ve been and where we are going.
Our Union has always been strong on innovation, but the core principle of our Union has remained unchanged since that day in 1984 when the first group of activists joined our Stewards Program. In fact, it extends back to our organization’s founding in 1937.
This principle is summed up by two powerful words: